Onramp Meters and the Lost Art of Merging Gracefully

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dear Street Smart:

I drive the San Diego Freeway Monday through Friday to work and back home. On some days I carpool with my husband. When we carpool, I notice that the drivers who are not carpooling are not stopping at the metered light. They just continue on their merry way, and on several occasions we have had near misses with these motorists.

They apparently don't understand the concept of why these onramps are metered, nor do they have any idea how to merge. Why aren't there cameras installed so these violators can be prosecuted? The county and state could make a mint off these people.

I use the Foothill Transportation Corridor, and if you don't pay the toll there, a camera takes a picture of your license plate and sends you a ticket in the mail. Are there any plans to use this technology on freeway onramps?

Helen K. Nees

Dove Canyon

That simply would be too expensive, according to Caltrans spokeswoman Maureena Duran Rojas.

"It's just cost-prohibitive when you count up all the freeway ramps in Orange County."

The department does have 18 video cameras installed at various freeway interchanges, Rojas said, but their purpose, rather than law enforcement, is to allow traffic controllers to observe freeway conditions and to take countermeasures such as activating freeway signs.

About 35 more cameras are expected to be installed by the end of the year.

In the absence of cameras on freeway onramps, meanwhile, the California Highway Patrol is taking extra pains to catch solo drivers who whiz past meters.

"There are year-round programs where we actually sit on those onramps and look for violators," said Bruce Lian, a spokesman for the CHP.

Those caught running red lights, he said, are liable for a $271 fine.

Dear Street Smart:

Now that the powers that be have opened up a connector ramp between the northbound Costa Mesa Freeway and the southbound Corona del Mar Freeway (from Costa Mesa to Irvine), a connection for which I am extremely grateful, I was wondering if there were any plans to build a connection going the other way, i.e., from the northbound Corona del Mar to the southbound Costa Mesa. I'm sure it would be quite a project, but as of now there really isn't a very direct way in place to get from the one to the other.

David Shoemaker

Costa Mesa

Indeed there are such plans, according to Caltrans spokeswoman Rojas. But funding for the proposed $4.3-million connector has not yet been identified. And the target date for starting on the project is not until late 1999.

"We are, at present, locating funding," Rojas said, mentioning a list of possible sources that includes the cities of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach, as well as Caltrans, the Transportation Corridor Agencies, Orange County Transit Authority and state and federal governments. "It has not, at this point, gone on to the design stage," she said.

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NOTED IN PASSING: Speaking again of front license plates, a reader took exception to a recent column noting that, while front plates are required by California law, many newer imported cars do not have mounts for them.

"A while back we bought a Toyota and there appeared to be no place for a holder," wrote D. Discher of San Juan Capistrano. "When I asked the salesman, he said there are two dimples on the front bumper. The bumper can be pierced through its outer coating, which is plastic, and a screw or small bolt of the proper size can be inserted through these 'dimples.' The salesman said that the dealership would be glad to do the job when I got my license. I asked for the proper screws and did the job myself, rather than return to the dealership."

Moral: When buying a foreign car, pick one with dimples.

Street Smart appears Mondays in The Times Orange County Edition. Readers are invited to submit comments and questions about traffic, commuting and what makes it difficult to get around in Orange County. Include simple sketches if helpful. Letters may be published in upcoming columns. Please write to David Haldane, c/o Street Smart, The Times Orange County Edition, P.O. Box 2008, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, send faxes to (714) 966-7711 or e-mail him David.Haldane@latimes.com. Include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers. Letters may be edited, and no anonymous letters will be accepted.

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